tv The Chris Matthews Show NBC December 12, 2011 12:00am-12:30am PST
(clears throat) sorry. when it's on your mind, it's on ebay. >> this is "the chris matthews show." [captioning made possible by nbc enterprises] >> a time for change has come! >> the gingrich who stole the presidency. cot man the obama people the man they wanted most become the one they should fear the most? because his supporters see him in the crystal ball as the perfect person to take back the white house. the personification of public anger and demand for a radical turn from the current course. timing is everything. has newt already grabbed some of that famed obama luck? has simply being the last conservative standing given him the title shot?
finally, forget everything else. was it newt gingrich's vast air time on fox and prime time debating that took him to the top, to those real-time television images that overcome the years of nasty shenanigans? hi, i'm chris matthews. welcome to the show. with us today, major garrett, cnn's gloria borger, nbc's kelly o'donnell and "the washington post," david ignatius. for at least three years the obama campaign team has been gaming the re-election battle against mitt romney. we'll try to spot some of the inexplicable reasons later in the show. all the polls show republican voters favor newt gingrich to lead them into battle. one poll broadened it, looking forward to the november election. it found gingrich running very close to romney in a head-to-head with the president. in ohio a must-win state for republicans, this is striking. obama now trails romney, but obama also trails gingrich,
42-43. very close between myth and newt in those hypothetical general election battles. in florida, not quite that close. obama trails romney by three, but he beats gingrich by just two points. in pennsylvania, better for obama. he beats romney there by three and beats gingrich by eight. kelly, these two guys, newt and mitt, look about the same. >> it is striking. the lying in wait period for mitt romney, where he's done all the right things in the traditional model has not paid off for him. his support has been so constant. i'm from ohio, so i have a sense of this from my own personal history. what people have wanted is something that they didn't expect with gingrich. he has been the guy down on the mat and came back. there is an admirable quality to that. when you're talking about people who are really wanting victory. not in the big, broad swath, but in the sense of wanting the kill instinct, which gingrich has demonstrated that he has.
he has the heft of experience. some of the problems with him, of course, roam neep has some of the same problems with being money'd and that kind of thing. but the appeal of romney does not seem as strong as we expectsed. chris: the old idea was not prun a flame theory, a wild guy, a ferel guy. you want somebody close to the center. but maybe the republicans already thought this out and said, no, we want somebody with the same kind of anger and excitement we have to get us to the polls and get excited about beating obama. >> i wrote about this this week. one of the reasons that gingrich is where he is now is gauss several other bigger republicans, who have much more contemporary experience are not this in this race. imagine what it would have looked like had haley barbour been there, paul ryan, governor chris christie, but they're not there. what gingrich also understood is that romney was fundamentally misaligned and mistimed with the actual party that will nominate the republican nominee. northeastern, eyed logically
flexible, money'd, wall street, career politician. gingrich has some of those things, but the fundamental misalignment, idea logically always was there. chris: what gets you to the ticket to get the nomination? >> gingrich has, though a career politician, a record of the first o.s.u. majority in 40 years, balanced budget, the first tax cuts since reagan. >> wouldn't that be bill clinton? >> it was in the confines of a republican in-house conversation. that's what gingrich will say. when romney says you're a career politician, he'll say fine, that's my record. what's yours? >> they don't think gingrich is conservative enough. chris: they're not just -- they see substance. >> they see a history that elevated republicans, put them in a position of power. in the conversation, ideal logically, where it hadn't been for 40 years. chris: it seems like newt gingrich has a couple of appeals. he has to go to the center, right and the center right. with the center right he's smart. with the far right he seems to have their fire, their willingness to attack obama
personally. he does cover a lot of real estate in terms of feel. >> he does. but he met with conservatives this week in virginia and it was a great meeting for him. he got applause and all the rest. but they still have to agree to disagree. they're still skeptical about newt gingrich on the question of health care mandates, you know. teddy roosevelt republican, believes the government can have solutions to problems. immigration. so here's the choice, here's the choice, i think, for hrps -- do you take newt gingrich, who they believe has bad principles, or do you take mitt romney, who they believe has no principles at all? >> let me ask you about the voters. we remember yesterday better than three years ago and i've learned that people don't have much interest in 30 years ago. how can romney or the president run against newt by saying, hey, yeah, but 15 or 20 years ago you were nasty, because they don't see that on television. they see a smart guy who can debate. >> you have to assume that a person who's accident prone
early in his career -- and newt was -- is still accident prone, and that somewhere out there is that bad misstatement, that kind of glib accident that he's capable of. i found myself, chris, re-reading clips from 1998, which was the year that gingrich was essentially fired as speaker by a republican party that was so fed up with him because, as people said again and again then, he is -- he's not a good leader. he's just too erratic. chris: remember when he said women can't fight and men like to go out and kill giraffes, some strange comment? >> there was a period where there was the bizarre comment of the day, and that is going to come back into this campaign. >> even before that, i have in my piece in the "national journal" this week, people who work for gingrich walking to the capitol, january 7, 1997. the first time newt was up for re-election as speaker, uncertainly if he would have the votes to be re-elected. he won by three votes. chris: last week mitt people,
using surrogates, and even he personally has gotten into this fight the past week. if throwing the kitchen sink at this tough guy -- and people say they want a tough guy, not a nice guy -- how are you going to stop this guy, newt? >> one of the things romney has is he has wired in all the elected officials. there are very few elected officials on a big level who are behind newt gingrich at the moment. romney has with that establishment that in the old days that might mean more. but what it does say is that these are people who have been certainly the beneficiaries of his help, campaigning, raising money, and they can help organization alley. chris: we asked two of our regulars, including gloria and kelly, which guy should the obama team wish for? 11 say newt, one says mitt. speak for the 11. you think newt is easier to beat? >> precisely for david's point,
which is that at some moment the obama people believe, as do many republicans, that newt gingrich will self-emulate, right? he's going to say something that he shouldn't be saying. right now, by the way, we're seeing a different new. we're seeing one that seems to be smoother, more positive, less nasty. but we don't know how long that is going to last fomplet at any moment you could see the other newt emerge, and he will start channeling his inner bmp ombast and people have to decide, do i want to live with that for the next four years and listen to that person? chris: he's got the ball. i'd rather be the guy running for the goal line with the football than the guy hoping he's going to fumble. >> he's got the ball. don't forget that the great strength i think romney still has in this race is he looks like a leader for a country that's got a lot of problems. he looks like a guy that makes
tough decisions. newt is still a college professor. he's got a million ideas and fun to watch. >> so is barack obama, though. >> you can't count out the ability, when it's really romney facing this interesting, likeable, but not necessarily leaderly person. chris: let's get to the question that's been pending, starting with you, major. let's take three weeks from now. let's talk about new year's. which is just three days before they vote in the caucuses in iowa. will newt still have the firepower he's got right now? >> he'll have more of it. romney will go negative. iowa yans diss like negative politics. gingrich will than disciplined. he needs to be disciplined for eight weeks, and he appears to be internalizing that self-discipline. he will be stronger in south carolina and in new hampshire. newt gingrich is a factor, and romney, i think, doesn't need to attack newt, but differentiate
himself from newt in kind and in mission and in vision. if he does that, he has a chance to get back in the race. chris: right now newt holds his strengths for three weeks? >> i think he does, i think he absolutely hold his strength. newt is smart. >> i think that's great analysis. i think intervening events can always get in the way. there could be some moment that we don't know about, and i think there are some voters who do appreciate the care with which romney has run for a long time, and the studious approach and the control he has shown. so if he doesn't come so crazy out of the box to fight back, there may be some who step back and say, as david points out, who do i want to see over time? chris: back to my question on newt. do you think he has the discipline to stay at the top by not attacking his opponents and saying crazy things? >> historically he's been more impetuous. chris: david? it's now 2-1, they think he can hold. >> i think he'll hold. i think he'll win iowa. romney will win new hampshire. chris: he won't go ballistic between now and then? >> it's going to be a fun
campaign to watch. chris: if he comes out of iowa strong, that means he goes into new hampshire strong. >> he'll win south carolina. and florida. and romney will have to flow every single thing he has to hold florida. chris: i think newt looks very strong, as we go through the holiday season, celebrating newt gingrich. what a revolting development. who would have believed? who said comeback kid? this guy is the comeback kid. one factor that's made newt gingrich a hero since he left congress is his use of the fox news contributors. it hasn't just been newt on fox, an array of potential candidates were on fox. john stewart put it this way back in the spring. >> they've got so much pizzazz that a national television network has contracted with them to do a show. no, not that show. yes, there they are, the pundit candidates. chris: "saturday night live" how they would handle a republican
debate. >> now, with special fox news presentation. live at daniel webster college in nashua, new hampshire, it's the 2012 republican presidential undeclared candidates debate. >> please welcome for massachusetts, governor mitt romney. >> oh, gee whiz. [applause] i've been smiling for the last four years, but i haven't been happy once. [laughter] >> former speaker of the house, newt gingrich. >> i love the 1990's. [laughter] >> current famous person, sarah palin. >> hiya. it's just so great to be back on fox news, a network that both pays me and shows me the questions ahead of time. and i just hope that tonight the lame stream media won't twist my words by repeating them verbatim. chris: now back to the real world. mitt romney does almost no interviews, but he did go on fox last week. his interview -- romney
complained it was too tough. baer surprised romney by calling him out on his flip-flops, so steven coling better had this to say. >> if anyone is a flip-flopper, it is you bret baer. remember, you work for fox news. he is a republican candidate. a year from now he might be your co-worker. [laughter] chris: actually, baer did a great job on the interview. picking up on the fox theme, were his appearances on fox, would carry gingrich from nasty smart aleck what some find presidential. scoops and predictions. be right back.
hit with republican voters. >> he's been on fox news, as mark said, for such a long time, and fox news drives primary voters, republican primary voters, because they all watch it. chris: simply put. as a matter of fact, this week's "new york times" cbs poll has 37% of likely iowa caucusgoers saying they get most of their news from fox. what they've seen is, well, hundreds of hits like this. >> former speaker of the house, newt gipping rich, says president obama is making the biggest power grab in american history. >> but what you're seeing is a rush to try to radically change america before the american people have a say in it. chris: there you have it, kelly. coming off as a bit of an oracle, a thoughtful man. doesn't have to fight, just speak his intellectual firepower there. >> he's had this great forum for a long time where he can work out some of these ideas. there's a comfortability with those voters who are not necessarily thinking of all of those data points in his career
that didn't go so well. they've had a chance to, in a much more intimate way, spend time with him. when romney has not been in that same forum. recently the other day he said you'll see me more on fox news because it's important to republican primary voters. chris: after they go to work, they don't watch entertainment shows, "american idol," they watch the hard-nosed, right-wing stuff. newt is on as one of their advisors. >> right, and newt didn't disappear. let me recall one other person from history that was sort of interesting in his relationship with television and that's ronald reagan. ronald reagan, a salesman for general electric, who then took his story on the road politically. they already knew him from television. they liked him. he had been in their living room. forget the movie stuff. he had been in their living room and then took it on the road. chris: this voice we're getting on television of anger, i just wondered. nixon seems to come to mind when i think about gingrich. he's not actually a
conservative. he's like knicks op, an opportunist -- nixon, an opportunist. he's fundamentally p app pall. >> but he's also a professor. what newt has enjoyed is the ideas part of politics, thinking up crazy ideas, bouncing them off reporters. most of us have talked about ideas with him. i think he's now moving harder right in this more congenial, maybe television-shaped package. but his ideas are moving right to me. his ideas on foreign policy are getting super hard-lined. he's practically saying he'll go to war with iran the day he gets elected. i'm curious about whether these harder ideas are going to fit the congenial package. chris: is he going to stick to that? >> i think his big challenge is simply this -- he has to show republicans first and then maybe the country that he's a leader, that he could be presidential.
for everything you'd say about newt right now, he's not presidential. >> well, the phenomenon for newt gingrich is for those of us in washington who cover national politics as a matter of course, we remember the 1990's, and for us he sort of drifts it away. newt gingrich did not drift away for the average primary caucus voter. he was a constant parent of the overall conversation they were having about american politics, whether bush was in office or president obama was in office. that becomes a threshold level of comfortability that we, i think, in washington have missed. that when we talk about some of the inadequacies of gingrich, people out there don't hear them. what they hear is what they remember having seen him in their own living room. chris: it's not so much pro newt as anti-romney. the drum beat and the radio and the tv and fox has been relentlessly it can't be mitt. >> and onte obama, anti-obama. he represents their
chris: welcome back. maim, tell me something i don't know. >> 2 now, 282 republican delegates are up for grabs. 40% of those will be decided by super tuesday, which means march, april, may, june, 60% of delegates still up for grabs. that means this race, even if gingrich gets off to a strong start, as many of us think he
will, may not be over. >> we were just talking about the iowa caucuses. i'm going to throw something out here. what if ron paul actually wins the iowa caucuses? does mitt romney a huge favor and freezes the prays after iowa. he gets a do-over. ron paul is a huge factor in the iowa caucuses. >> one of the things i think we'll hear from newt gingrich is the fact that he was born in your home state of pennsylvania. that becomes important in those battle groupped states. he was born in harrisburg. gingrich was miss adopted name. he was born newton leroy macpherson, not gingrich. so he was given that name at about 3 years old. so there's some bio about him we'll get to know. chris: are you the birther on this issue? just kidding. >> in libya, the c.i.a. has been trying to find the thousands of
shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles that gadhafi bought. as of this week there are 10,000 still unaccounted for. 10,000 missiles that could bring down a plane. chris: wow. when we come back, the big question this week. it's the season for bests and wofts. here's one. what was the biggest he scent of the past year? -- event of the past year? be right back. [ male announcer ] for andy, tracking his spending with citibank
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so you can put your tv pretty much anywhere you want. and that stand... anywhere? like, we can put it over there? and that coffee... or we could t it on the patio for watching the game with the guys. or in the kitchen? but, these curtains are... i can't believe you moved the tv. it's like a whole new living room. it actually is a whole new living room. [ male announcer ] the new wireless receiver, only from at&t. now get u-verse with dvr at the lowest price ever. at&t. chris: it's that season, of course. lists of bests and worsts, which brings us to this question -- what was the biggest, most important event of 2011? major garrett? >> the debt conflict here in washington and the spread in europe. big story. >> the arab spring. >> i'll go domestic and say the shooting of gabby giffords brought into focus the anger in america, the randomness and the inspirational comeback. so i think that that's very memorable. chris: it's a great human story.
>> revolution. mubarak, solid man in the middle east out and set loose. chris: still going on, isn't it? >> none of us have mentioned the killing of osama bin laden, which was my number two. chris: thanks to a great roundtable and great memories. thanks to all my guests. i'm back right now for my book tour for jack kennedy elusive hero, which took me around the country. it was great to see many of you out there. this monday i'll be in new york at the 92nd street y. it's a gift of courage that's perfect for the holiday season. that's the show. thanks for watching. see you back here next week for our annual ♪...my true love gave to me... six geese a-laying. five new tops... i want to be very specific about this because last year i got some gifts
i wasn't exactly feeling. especially from you, uncle dale. were those acid wash jeans? i just hope you all stuck to my list this year. a new digital camera or a new suede shoulder bag would be really ideal. sorry to be so frank. i just don't need another needlepoint throw pillow, aunt carla. ♪ four calling birds, three french hens... when it's on your mind, it's on ebay.